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After 34 years, an American Olympic volunteer gets a second chance


The Olympic Rings are displayed outside Adler airport, near Sochi, on February 18, 2013. With a year to go until the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, construction work and development continues as Olympic tests events and World Championship competitions are underway. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

When you think about it, the Olympics are all about fulfilling dreams - and that’s not just for the athletes.

There will be 25,000 volunteers keeping the Sochi Olympics rolling along in Russia, and one of them has waited 34 years for his opportunity to help.

Shortly after he graduated from college with a degree in Russian, Jonathan Sass was set to work at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. But when the United States (along with 64 other countries) chose to boycott the competition due to the then-Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan, the Truckee, California resident had to come home.

However, his dream was rekindled when he found out about the Games coming to Sochi.

“When I saw (the Games) were in Sochi, I thought, ‘I can do this,’” Sass, now 56, said to the Tahoe Daily Tribune recently. “I get a chance to revisit a dream of mine - how amazing is it that most times in life things like this are a one time shot, and I get to do it again?”

He started by contacting Sasha Newmann, another Truckee local who had been organizing volunteer training programs in Russia. From there, he made more and more connections before being given the good news last October.

MORE: Sochi 2014 unveils colorful uniforms for Olympic volunteers, staff

For the Olympics, he’ll be stationed at Rosa Khutor as a member of the prep team for the alpine course. According to him, he’s looking forward to meeting travelers, being a good ambassador for his country, and collecting souvenirs to give to his two daughters upon his return to the States.

“They certainly are hoping to get all of the swag that I’ll bring home,” he said. “They’re already fighting over who gets my uniform hat.”

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